Yesterday, Felix Hernandez made the Tampa Bay Rays his bitch, because that’s what he does. Joe Maddon even said that Felix had better stuff yesterday than when he pitched a perfect game against them in 2012, which is pretty high praise.
Let’s look at his season stat line for a second. (For the advanced metrics, I’ll be turning to Fangraphs.com for this column, although I occasionally like to look at baseball reference. Unfortunately, in this case, the websites’ calculations for King Felix’s WAR are pretty different in some years, so I would recommend looking at both sites so you can decide for yourself if he’s simply amazing or actually in the argument for best pitcher in the game.)
In 2 months, King Felix has pitched 98 innings in 62 team games, which is just over a third of the season, putting him in line for about 250-260 innings pitched. He record is 8-1, even though that matters very little if at all. His K/9 rate is the highest of his career, at a whopping 9.73/9 innings, which is Pedro Martinez in his prime type stuff. Last year, Hernandez’s lowest walk rate of his career was at 2.03/9… and now it’s at 1.56. Same with his HR/9 rate, which has never been lower than .54/9 in a season, but now it’s .28. Some might cry regression, but the thing is that Felix hasn’t been getting unbelievably lucky. His opponents’ BABIP is .305, which is pretty much in line with his numbers over the past 4 years, and is way higher than 2009 or 2010. His left on base percentage is at 70.6%, which is lower than the past few years.
Add all that up, and Felix Hernandez has a 2.39 ERA, 1.92 FIP, and 2.41 xFIP this season. That’s nice, but it doesn’t seem that great when you hear that his WAR this season is 3.7. THREE POINT SEVEN. And we’re not even at Fathers’ Day yet. At this rate, let’s say that he’ll pitch 250 innings, and let’s just round his current innings to 100 so far (making what I’m about to say a conservative estimate). That means that’s he’s pitched 40% of the season so far, putting him on pace for 9.5 WAR.
It’s realistic to say that we could be witnessing a 10+ WAR season, which really is in line with Pedro Martinez circa 15 years ago. Even if he sucks by his standards for the rest of the season, he’s probably in the midst of a 7+ WAR season. I don’t think enough people realize how amazing Felix Hernandez is.